Call for change

For Accenture’s global IT organization, operating more than 900 applications for a $50.5 billion global business with 710,000 employees is a mammoth task. More than 200 internal IT Operations teams in our global IT handle this responsibility—a huge and expanding effort that faces more demand than resources.

As business needs continue to grow, our global IT needs to achieve more operational and business efficiency and to supplement our IT Operations teams with an intelligent automated workforce. Such a workforce could complement humans and minimize human intervention.

In addition, keeping technical infrastructure and data secure is a continual challenge. To retain Accenture’s fortified security posture, it is extremely critical to identify and close any gaps between potential security vulnerabilities and time it takes to respond and secure. All these business needs reinforced the imperative for building intelligent automation.

When tech meets human ingenuity

To respond, our global IT organization launched and is significantly investing in a Touchless Operations program. It’s part of a broader intelligent automation program. The aim is to make Accenture more efficient as a business by supplementing our IT Operations teams with an intelligent automated workforce.

We define touchless operations as the combination of intelligent insights, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and automated orchestration supported by an end-to-end automation architecture, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, standards, and frameworks.

To get there, we are implementing ways to deploy highly intuitive solutions, use machine learning to predict events and recommend next-best actions, build mature self-learning, and enable self-healing capabilities that minimize human interactions. To develop the assets, we created rapid touchless automation development cells that include automation architects, machine learning developers, data scientists, DevSecOps specialists, and others.

Shifting to standardized frameworks
Our Touchless Operations teams are motivating individual application teams to use standardized, enterprise-level automation and orchestration frameworks. These are frameworks that can plug and play an application/business-specific automation. These secure and scalable frameworks orchestrate between various Accenture enterprise platforms and tools, resolving issues without human intervention.

Building on top of the Accenture IT technology stack
The teams are creating tools and touchless operations assets on top of the Accenture IT technology stack, allowing automated rollouts at scale, while ensuring seamless maintainability and security and the ability to customize organization-wide.

We built an ecosystem over the state-of-the-art Accenture enterprise architecture touchless automation platform that supports cognitive and applied intelligence. Reusing the foundational building blocks enabled necessary connectedness and real-time speed. Our touchless automation assets benefited from the reliability, scalability, security, and maintainability that were established.

Our teams then built self-service-enabled intelligent assets, intelligent bots, and cognitive chat bots with machine predictions and deployed intelligently orchestrated actions. We also enabled an agile, plug-and-play living ecosystem with platforms and frameworks.

Deploying solutions
The newly established self-healing and auto-resolving assets involve analysis of millions of tickets, monitoring alerts, service requests and provide recommendations and machine-enabled solutions. These solutions are helping to advance our touchless operations journey while improving speed, accuracy, and keeping our businesses and operations running.

Touchless Automation Orchestrator (TAO). The Touchless Automation Orchestrator (TAO) proactively prevents system failures and outages. It eliminates manual effort to address service tickets for disk space, server issues, application pools, critical services, databases issues, and server reboots. All identified applications were onboarded to TAO. The platform provides a 360-degree view of all remediation activities and auto-provisions into new applications as they are brought in.

Intelligent Application Security Platform (IASP). Our security team automated vulnerability scans and fixes as part of the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipeline to make Accenture more secure.

An example is the Intelligent Application Security Platform, one of the program’s largest initiatives. The platform performs comprehensive application security scanning that includes millions of lines of source code covering approximately 55% of internal applications to identify and fix security vulnerabilities. Once an application is scanned, the platform generates options on remediations and also reduces false positive detection. In addition, an automated dependency bot, working with evergreen application templates, fixes vulnerabilities it detects caused from using code libraries with outdated versions. These templates automate standardization, manage upgrades and enable compliance that makes applications secure from the start.

Machine Learning (ML) assets. Several teams are building machine learning assets to offer machine-suggested, predictions, solutions, and fixes. One example is ML technology-based solutions to address incidents from Accenture’s Time and Expense application, where resolving incidents before the end of each cycle is critical. Incidents are manually tedious to resolve, leading to inconsistencies and high resolution times. Now, several AI-enabled automation solutions prescribe appropriate resolution steps for issue-specific scenarios addressing 60% of the incidents for this key application.

Predict and Prevent is an AI-based asset to forecast and prevent outages. It intelligently analyzes the historic patterns generated from different monitoring sources. The asset captures the complex relationships and inter-component dependencies with unusual patterns and short- and long-term trends to forecast outages at granular level. The “prevent” part is invoked after successful predictions and enables auto-prevention of these outages via several remediation flows.

A valuable difference

The Touchless Operations program is transforming how our internal IT Operations teams provide application support to our people by improving operations productivity, quality, performance, and user experience.

The program is providing the required structure, governance, and discipline around automation to achieve the business goals of more operational and business efficiency. Touchless Operations development cells collaborate with IT Operations teams to identify improvements that will make the most impact efficiently and effectively.

Results achieved to date from the automation solutions highlighted include:

10%+ resource capacity
Touchless operations-centric automation has created additional resource capacity of more than 10% annually with greater workforce agility at scale, bringing opportunities to create capacity catering to new and changing business needs.

Infrastructure self-healing
The Touchless Automation Orchestrator platform has eliminated a significant amount of work hours through proactive self-healing and auto-resolution. Currently, about 20% of the infrastructures alerts and anomalies are self-healed through the TAO platform. Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) has decreased from two days to zero. With on-demand infrastructure capabilities and futuristic intelligent preventive assets, the plan is to proactively self-heal more than 50% of issues spanning 900+ applications in the next two years.

Zero touch with machine-enabled solutions
With a large IT landscape, considerable time is spent on resolving incidents, service requests, monitoring applications, data correction, vulnerability remediations, and more. Machine-enabled solutions address 15% of all such requests, recommending solutions, auto-resolving, auto-serving requests, proactively fixing and preventing outages. In the next phase, the aim is to expand coverage to 30%, and all this with no human intervention.

DevSecOps enabler
Automation is one of our critical enablers to achieve our Development, Security, and Operations (DevSecOps) vision, reducing lead time to market, increasing market-centric rollout, improving quality, and being more secure from the start. Automation for a continuous integration, delivery, and deployment pipeline has been adopted for 55% of our application landscape and planned to cover the remaining near term.

Proactive vulnerability prevention
The Intelligent Application Security Platform is now integrated into Accenture’s DevSecOps process. Ninety percent of vulnerabilities are proactively prevented using the platform and a subset auto-resolved using intelligent bots. The rollout of this industry-leading automation has enabled cost savings as well as reducing future security risks and technical debt.

The award-winning program is a journey, one that is in progress. Looking ahead, the program is:

Considering building machine learning-enabled recommendations for all incidents.

Implementing API services to enable touchless automation through multiple platforms.

Focusing further on accessibility.

Enabling voice-enabled automations.

Automating the discovery of new threat vectors and insights to improve our security posture.

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